PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

December 4, 2009

Howard Dean: Is the Current Healthcare Bill Worth Supporting?

Filed under: 2Healthcare,National Politics — Bart @ 7:09 pm

As the healthcare reform bills move through Congress, many progressives are starting to wonder if the bills are worthy of support. Former DNC Chair, Dr. Howard Dean, was a recent guest host on the Rachel Maddow Show and addressed this very question. An excerpt:

In order to have insurance reform, you need two things. The first is making sure insurance companies can‘t turn you down for any medical reason. That‘s called guaranteed issue—and that‘s in the bill. But that‘s only effective if you make sure that the coverage is affordable. And that‘s not in the bill.

As the bill is written now, the insurance companies will still be allowed to gouge their customers if they have illnesses, to charge you two or three times what your neighbor gets charged.

A lot of the insurance reform in this bill is gone. The only real reform that‘s left is the public option. If that‘s compromised away, this bill is no longer health care reform. It‘s just a huge gift to the health insurance industry from the same people who bailed AIG out, the American taxpayers.

Howard Dean discusses the bill with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt):

Dr. Dean interviews Rep. Anthony Weiner to get a perspective from the House. That video after the bump.

One of the strongest advocates in the House for real healthcare reform has been Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York. Howard asked him for his assessment of the bill:

“The Incredible Shrinking Public Option”

Like Rep. Weiner, most members of PDH are advocates of single-payer insurance as the best solution for cutting insurance costs while expanding coverage to all people. Some of us agreed to support a “robust public option” as a transitional reform, in the hopes it would provide a meaningful mechanism for containing costs AND providing an alternative for those unhappy with the service from their private provider. The public option has become less robust with each amendment, so it is now a pale shadow of its former self.

In addition, the Stupak Amendment in the House version of the bill, if not removed, will be the most serious restriction of women’s reproductive rights in several decades. If there is no meaningful “public option” and severe restrictions on reproductive choice remain, I would hope members of the Hawaii delegation vote against the bill.

The public has been aroused on the issue of healthcare reform and educated about many of its complexities. Given this historic opportunity, to settle for a weak bill will be a lost opportunity. To settle for a bill which amounts to, in the words of Howard Dean, “a huge gift to the health insurance industry from the same people who bailed AIG out,” would be a crime.

Your comments welcome.

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NOTE: The complete transcript for this episode of the Rachel Maddow Show can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34148801

Howard Dean has written his own book with his analysis of the healthcare crisis:

Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer.

I have found it for as cheap as $6.15, plus shipping, on Amazon:


  1. Thanks, Bart. I posted it on FB. Bernie Sanders is my hero!

    Comment by Lynn S. — December 5, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  2. “As the bill is written now, the insurance companies will still be allowed to gouge their customers if they have illnesses, to charge you two or three times what your neighbor gets charged”
    That doesn’t seem very fair. My dad is ill and needs medical attention often. No body seriously wants to go through this sort of aggravation especially when your only priority is to get better.

    Comment by Katie Adam — December 5, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  3. Katie,

    In the video discussion between Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders, Howard points out that in Vermont, where they are both from, the law limits the premiums insurance companies can charge to those with pre-existing conditions to no more than 20% above the normal prremium. As both a doctor and former Governor having to design practical programs, I respect Howard Dean’s views on this.

    Too bad the White House did not put Howard Dean in charge of winning over public support for meaningful healthcare reform. I guess Howard never learned “to play well” with the lobbyists.

    Comment by Bart — December 5, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  4. Just from watching these two videos, I think its clear the time for wondering is behind us. Progressives can no longer support either of the bills making their way through Congress. While it sounds like the House bill is better than the Senate bill, I’m not sure by how much.

    In its current form, the Senate version is unacceptable. And it might get worse. Bart’s right about the Stupack Amendment, but I’d also like to point out the Republican hypocrisy of such an amendment. They’ve been trying to scare the public that ‘government will come between you and your doctor’ and one of the videos (i forget which) makes reference to such hypocrisy.

    Republicans have put all their energy into killing health care reform, while Democrats have been too cowardly, in my opinion to stand up against such utterly ridiculous and irrational attacks against real and substantive reform.

    We should indeed pressure our Congressional Delegation to vote against the current bills.

    Comment by frosty — December 6, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

  5. I guess my laptop burped. Don’t know what happen to my screen. My only comment is that Sen. Sanders is right. These flaws in the bill need to be fixed at a later stage. The Senate’s bill will show the shameful influence of insurance special interests.

    I’m just wondering if petition drives in these four Democratic senators’ states can influence to not kill the legislation even if they don’t support it.

    Comment by Al Toda — December 10, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  6. Oh, you idealists! “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!”

    So let’s review the history of compromises already agreed to by Obama in an effort to forge a “bi-partisan” bill.

    Progressives wanted single payer. Compromised away!
    Progressives asked for a Robust Public Option. Compromised away!
    Progressives would settle for a weaker Public Option. Compromised away!
    Progressives would accept a Medicare Buy in for over 55. Compromised away!

    Obama told us repeatedly he would oppose the individual mandate if there were no public option! The public option is gone, but the mandate remains! Another great compromise!

    Remind me again, what compromises have the insurance companies, the Republicans and Joe Lieberman made during the last 8 months of haggling?

    If the Senate leadership cannot pass a good bill, they shouldn’t pass anything. It is better to start afresh next year than to try to improve a fatally flawed bill which actually makes the current system worse.

    Obama and his fans seem hellbent on passing ANYTHING with the words “Healthcare” and “Reform” at the top of the page, even if the final bill amounts to a giveaway to the insurance companies and does little to resolve the realworld failures of our current healthcare delivery system.

    Kill Bill!

    Comment by Sylvie — December 15, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  7. I’m relieved that it went this far so that democrats will hopefully kill it

    Comment by kevin — December 15, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  8. I see a need for some Republican support. It insures that the bill will pass even if it cannot get some Democrat support. For example, tort reform will not be in the bill if Republicans don’t compromise. But if they do, then having it in the bill makes it harder for them to vote against it. This kind of legislation must be written to be acceptable to Democrats. Republicans who will for vote for tort reform even if it includes a trigger on the public option– like Sen Snow– will insure passage of the bill.

    Reid seems to still have hope that there can be a compromise with the bill. If he succeeds, then it will show that Democrats can govern well. Democrats who want to stick it to the public like Sen Lieberman will have to explain to the public why they cannot support health care reform. It makes the issue less about partisanship and more about what is good for our country. This is an important issue for Democrats and the upcoming elections.

    Comment by Al — December 18, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  9. Didn’t IIRC only Edwards endorse a single payer for health care?

    Single payer was never considered to be a viable political option. Clinton went for a public option. And Obama never even supported mandated health insurance.

    Comment by Al — December 21, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  10. Hi Al!

    Edwards DID NOT endorse single=payer. Only Kucinich called for single-payer in 2008, as he did in 2004. Edwards deserves credit for recognizing the importance of healthcare reform early in the 2008 campaign. Because his proposals resonated with teh electorate, Clinton and Obama quickly developed their own plans in response. Though Kucinich had the best and most specific proposal, he continued to be marginalized by the corporate press.

    Hillary did NOT call for a “public option.” Here is an article which spells out her “Seven Point Healthcare Plan”:


    You say “Obama never even supported mandated health insurance.” I would disagree with your phrase “never even,” as it implies Hillary’s individual mandate was somehow more progressive than Obama’s plan. Obama’s critique of Hillary’s mandate was that it was wrong to require people to purchase insurance from private insurers without first forcing the private insurers to develop better and less expensive coverage. He preferred to emphasize cost containment measures first.

    Unfortunately, now he is president, Obama has switched to Hillary’s stand on the individual mandate. In my view, one of the WORST features of the current bill is that it will require people to buy insurance from unreformed companies who will have few incentives to keep costs down. This will result, as Howard Dean has said, in a massive transfer of income to the already highly profitable insurance companies. I wish we had elected Candidate Obama as President instead of this current guy!

    Comment by Bart — December 21, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  11. Hi Bart…. Yes. My memory is bad. I got Kucinich mixed up with Edwards. I’m still a little confused about what Edwards supported on healthcare.

    Also, I recall that the difference between Obama and Clinton was on universal coverage. Obama did not believe in mandated coverage. But in the article you have, she explains that individuals and small businesses should also have access to large pools like big companies.

    This is moving in the direction of a quasi-public option. IE not as big as the whole country, but a group of insured people that is large enough to get good rates. In Hawaii, for example, that might mean that they could join the cheap group plans of Kaiser. Payment might be indirectly through the govt, for example, if it were subsidized. Clinton was criticized because this might have meant an HMO for those who do not have health insurance. They couldn’t have their choice of independent private physicians.

    I disagree with you about mandated coverage. Some element like that is necessary to lower premium rates. But I would favor the Hawaii system of enforcing this on employers. So that the employer would have to cover (or not cover) ALL employees with the same plan or group of plans and no exclusions of personnel outside of specific exceptions. Your rational and responsible spouse or significant-other provides the OTHER mandate if you are unemployed or independently employed.

    Comment by Al — December 24, 2009 @ 11:09 am

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